House debates

Monday, 4 September 2017

Statements by Members

Asylum Seekers

4:37 pm

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Batman, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Justice) Share this | | Hansard source

A week has gone since the government's plan was revealed to cease almost immediately all income support for asylum seekers transferred to Australia for medical reasons. These asylum seekers will be given three weeks before being evicted from government-supported accommodation, essentially coercing them back into offshore detention centres. Over the past week my office has been flooded with calls and letters from our local community voicing their frustration and anger at the government's latest attempt to rob refugees of their rights and legal choices. I echo their sentiments. These asylum seekers are vulnerable people. They may be traumatised by a violent past, they may have been through severe medical challenges and they may have virtually no financial support. Now the government is cutting off their income support and giving them an eviction notice.

Making these people deliberately destitute is not an act of toughness. Making these people deliberately homeless is not an act of strong leadership. It is an act of cruelty, and it is a cynical political ploy seeking a distraction from the chaos this government inflicted upon itself time and again. It is definitely not an act of strong leadership. Strong leadership would be to join with Labor in bringing an end to indefinite detention through third-party resettlement, not to punish people for needing medical care. Strong leadership would be to follow the recent recommendation of the Senate and publicly confirm these asylum seekers' eligibility to apply to participate in the US refugee resettlement arrangement, not to deny them the opportunity to apply. I will not support the removal of up to 400 refugees transferred to Australia for medical reasons.